American Historic Moments; Then and Now

Don Troiani- “The Last Salute” HAP

Our friend, Practically Historical, reminds us that 154 years ago today General John B Gordon (seven times wounded, including 5 Minnie balls at Antietam) by order of General Robert E. Lee, surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, to General Joshua L. Chamberlain (won the Medal of Honor at Little Round Top at Gettysburg, wounded six times, nearly mortally at Petersburg, and cited 4 times for bravery) of the Army of the Potomac.

As the Army of Northern Virginia marched past the Army of the Potomac, Chamberlain ordered the Army to “Carry Arms” (the marching salute) in respect, and at Gordon’s order, the Confederates responded. Chamberlain described the scene:

At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword point to his toe in salutation.”    Gordon truly understood the significance of the gesture, “Chamberlain called his men into line and as the Confederate soldiers marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes—a token of respect from Americans to Americans.”

There is a lesson there for those who would destroy the heritage of the Confederacy. At least 300,000  Americans died upon those fields to (amongst their reasons) to destroy chattel slavery in America. At the end of it, they respected their opponents enough to salute them in honor, and the Confederates enough to return the salute. Without a worthy enemy, there is no honor, and so far no more worthy enemy for American arms has ever appeared than American arms. Both sides fighting for freedom, even if their definitions differed. When you denigrate the Confederates, you also denigrate the forces that fought them and freed the slaves.

And so with salutes and honors, and with terms that meant no proscription lists and no hangings, America’s hardest war ended.


Then there is this:

That is the first ever photograph of a Black Hole, something so dense that even light cannot escape. So how can we take its picture? It’s complicated. Here’s part of the explanation.

And this:

Both of those are some seriously good explaining of a subject that is quite hard to understand.

But how did this happen? A badass stem professor, of course. In fact, a Cal Tech professor with a doctorate from MIT, who graduated from West Lafayette High School. And back in the day when she was in high school used to work with her dad’s colleagues, professors at Purdue. Professor Dr. Katie Bouman. Her dad is Charles Bouman, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Purdue. Wonder what dinner conversation was like in their house.

She explained in a TED talk what she was trying to do a couple years ago as well.

And it worked, as the picture above indicates. Pretty cool, essentially turning the entire Earth into a camera.

This is a very big deal, confirming relativity amongst other things, and another major major accomplishment for American science. I’m not a huge fan of government subsidizing stuff, but I’m not sure that any corporation would really see the point of this research, although I’ll bet there will be commercial benefits derived from it. Most corporations these days are insanely short-sighted about research. Hammer and Rails reminds us:

The combined budgets of NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Health (NIH) are just over $63 billion for FY 2019. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that the US’s 2019 federal budget is $4.746 trillion, the three major scientific foundations and government institutions that allow for such ground breaking scientific research account for just under 1.5% of the federal budget.

For just 1.5% of our budget, we’re able to fund the great work of Dr. Bouman, along with other great scientists at Purdue, the Big Ten, and beyond. While Dr. Bouman didn’t go to Purdue (I guess I can’t blame her for going to MIT instead), her connections to the university allowed her to cultivate her passion in the STEM fields, and it shows that the impact of Purdue continue into interstellar space.

Congrats to Dr. Bouman, former President Córdova, and all the researchers involved in the Event Horizon Telescope.

Yep, and MIT had a couple things to say, as well. First, they noted how important women in Stem are to our success in space.

As noted in the comments to the Tweet above, all these women, and all of us men, as well, follow in the footsteps of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron who wrote the first algorithm. And this:

Palm Sunday, Looking Back

Almost every year I have published the same post for Palm Sunday, sometimes supplemented by one from Jessica. Mine deals with the leadership Jesus showed during the Passion week. I do recommend it and it is here, two years ago, Jessica picked up on the theme with a quite wonderful article, which is here.

But I want to recall a Palm Sunday, also April 9th, from American history. It was an important day, which echoes forever in American, and world history. For this is when it was decided that the republic really was indivisible.

On the 15th of April, in 1861, Confederate batteries opened on Fort Sumter, leading to a poignant scene showing the honor of the American Army.

And so, the president called for volunteers, and all the officers made their choices and soon their was a war on. The war would be the end of the old United States and would show the outlines of what we would become. As we made that course change many a legend was created, for change on this order doesn’t happen cheaply or easily. If you know anything about American history the names echo in your heart: Longstreet, Pickett, Stuart, and always Stonewall, and Chamberlain, Meade, Sheridan, and Custer, and so many more.

And the places they had been: Bull Run, the Peninsula, Antietam, Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Cold Harbor, Petersburg and now Appomattox Court House. Almost all have been preserved and on all of them if you listen carefully, you can still here the cries of the wounded, the orders of the officers, and always the guns and the rattle of musketry, for in these places, at the cost of 600,000 dead Americans, the future was forged. Note that preserving these battlefields is what President Trump donated all but a dollar of his salary to the other day.

It’s fascinated everybody ever since because of something unique in history. The two main armies, The Federal Army of the Potomac, and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, fought each other up and down the eastern theater, fighting battles as hard fought as anything in history for four years and neither one could defeat the other.

There have been and still are two strains in American war-fighting, they first became evident in the Mexican War, and they are still part of our heritage.

The first is superb leadership, especially in small units but extending up to army leadership. This was the forte of the Army of Northern Virginia, especially the combination of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. One of Lee’s staff officers said that Lee’s middle name was actually Audacity, never has there been an officer who was better at taking a reasoned chance and having it work out, especially with Jackson as his strong right arm. In any other conflict they would have defeated nearly any enemy easily but they had the misfortune to be fighting the very first of the moderns.

Because once he came east as the Lieutenant General, America has only rarely had a better general than US Grant. He was never loved like Lee and he wasn’t as daring, although he could be witness his campaign leading up to Vicksburg. But when he came east, he realized that while he could lose the war with the Army of the Potomac, he could not win it, that would be up to Sherman. His task as Patton would have put it was to hold the Confederacy by the nose, so Sherman could kick it in the rear. But Grant, like Sherman, and Sheridan, was a modern general, really more of a manager than a leader. Grant wrote superbly clear and succinct orders, that were easily transmitted by telegraph. If you doubt this you need to read his autobiography which he finished as he was dying of throat cancer, and he wrote the last few chapters in longhand, and they are almost perfect copy. He also was a master of logistics, and concentration of force.

And these are the two thrusts of the United States military ever since. Overwhelming force applied at the point of decision and an incredible ability to move around and surprise enemies. With the leadership skills down to the squad level to make it work.

But, today we are met to commemorate another day in April for on Palm Sunday, 9 April 1865, the fabled Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to the Army of the Potomac. It was trying to break through Sheridan’s cavalry and had just discovered that there were two fresh infantry corps behind the cavalry. There was nowhere left to go, and so, on Palm Sunday would come this scene.

 https://i0.wp.com/farm4.staticflickr.com/3125/2807817622_1e3e70809b_z.jpg


[Much of what follows is from Joshuapundits’ haunting account of the day. I strongly recommend that you read it all]

Lee and Grant and their staffs didn’t meet in an actual courthouse. Instead, they met in a private home, that of Wilmer McLean, at 1:30 PM on a balmy spring afternoon.

For two and a half hours they sat and talked. After pitting every muscle and sinew, every ounce of intelligence, every iota of courage and will the two of them and their armies possessed against each other, the two adversaries finally met face to face.They had not seen each other since the Mexican War two decades earlier.

Here’s how General Horace Porter, one of Lee’s staff described what happened next:

“We entered, and found General Grant sitting at a marble-topped table in the center of the room, and Lee sitting beside a small oval table near the front window, in the corner opposite to the door by which we entered, and facing General Grant. We walked in softly and ranged ourselves quietly about the sides of the room, very much as people enter a sick-chamber when they expect to find the patient dangerously ill.

The contrast between the two commanders was striking, and could not fail to attract marked attention they sat ten feet apart facing each other. General Grant, then nearly forty-three years of age, was five feet eight inches in height, with shoulders slightly stooped. His hair and full beard were a nut-brown, without a trace of gray in them. He had on a single-breasted blouse, made of dark-blue flannel, unbuttoned in front, and showing a waistcoat underneath. He wore an ordinary pair of top-boots, with his trousers inside, and was without spurs. The boots and portions of his clothes were spattered with mud. He had no sword, and a pair of shoulder-straps was all there was about him to designate his rank. In fact, aside from these, his uniform was that of a private soldier.

Lee, on the other hand, was fully six feet in height, and quite erect for one of his age, for he was Grant’s senior by sixteen years. His hair and full beard were silver-gray, and quite thick, except that the hair had become a little thin in the front. He wore a new uniform of Confederate gray, buttoned up to the throat, and at his side he carried a long sword of exceedingly fine workmanship, the hilt studded with jewels. His top-boots were comparatively new, and seemed to have on them some ornamental stitching of red silk. Like his uniform, they were singularly clean, and but little travel-stained. On the boots were handsome spurs, with large rowels. A felt hat, which in color matched pretty closely that of his uniform, and a pair of long buckskin gauntlets lay beside him on the table.” 

The two men talked briefly of their experiences in Mexico, including the one time the two men had met as young officers near Vera Cruz. Then Lee, with an emotion that can only be imagined, asked Grant to write out his terms for surrender.

Grant took out his order book, and began to write: 

“In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them.”



At that point, according to the men who were there, General Grant gazed at General’s Lee and at his sword for almost a full minute. And then continued writing:

“This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.”

Grant said later that after looking at Lee and thinking about the matter for a moment, he realized that it would be an unnecessary humiliation to require officers to surrender their swords,and that requiring members of the Confederate Army to lose their privately owned horses and mules would be a great hardship, because those animals would be badly needed to carry out the spring plowing and planting and to help rebuild the devastated South.So in the end, all officers and men were allowed to take their privately owned horses and mules home with them.

Lee read over the terms, which were as generous as he could have possibly wanted. He had fully expected that senior officers like himself might be arrested and prosecuted for treason on the spot, with Grant demanding unconditional surrender. 

So Lee took up a pen and wrote out a short note agreeing to the terms, which was officially recorded at 4 PM that same afternoon.

Grant immediately issued orders to send food rations to Lee’s starving army, and then Lee took his leave. From the account of General Porter:

“At a little before 4 o’clock General Lee shook hands with General Grant, bowed to the other officers, and with Colonel Marshall left the room. One after another we followed, and passed out to the porch. Lee signaled to his orderly to bring up his horse, and while the animal was being bridled the general stood on the lowest step and gazed sadly in the direction of the valley beyond where his army lay – now an army of prisoners. He smote his hands together a number of times in an absent sort of way; seemed not to see the group of Union officers in the yard who rose respectfully at his approach, and appeared unconscious of everything about him. All appreciated the sadness that overwhelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of every one who beheld him at this supreme moment of trial. The approach of his horse seemed to recall him from his reverie, and he at once mounted. General Grant now stepped down from the porch, and, moving toward him, saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present; Lee raised his hat respectfully, and rode off to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded.”

As Lee rode away and the news of the surrender spread, the Union soldiers broke out in wild cheering. But as Grant recounted later, he ordered an immediate halt. “I at once sent word, however, to have it stopped,” he said. “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.”

[…]

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 10th April 1865.

General Order
No. 9

After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

— R. E. Lee, General, General Order No. 9

On April 12, the rain had stopped and the sun broke out, almost as if the heavens had allowed the southern officers and men an appropriate background to mourn over their dead and the Lost Cause, and then signaled that it was time to move on. Something like 28,000 Confederate soldiers passed by and stacked their arms on that day as the victorious Union Armies held a ceremony of surrender.

The Union officer chosen to lead the ceremony was not General Grant or any of the professional soldiers. Instead, it was Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain, the former Maine college professor who could justifiably be said to have won the Battle of Gettysburg, holding the left flank of Little Round Top at Gettysburg against all hope by leading the survivors of the 20th Maine in a successful bayonet charge down the south slope when they were almost out of ammunition to push the enemy troops out.

Chamberlain did an unusual thing for a victor in a hard won war, something that showed he was a man of rare courage and insight both on and off the battlefield. As the Confederate Army trooped by to stack arms, Chamberlain ordered his men to present arms in salute to their defeated enemies. As he recounted later in his book:

The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured? Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier’s salutation, from the “order arms” to the old “carry”—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!


The passing of the dead..an interesting and moving phrase.

General Chamberlain, like many others who stood on the grounds of Appomattox that bright spring day day was undoubtedly thinking of the men left behind, and it is to his credit that he had the depth of empathy and understanding to see it from both sides. But that was then. At Appomattox today, you don’t find the ghosts you find in other civil war sites. No matter how bulldozed,cleaned up and changed the landscape is, the spirits of the dead remain in easy reach at those other places. But not at Appomattox.

Even the furnishings at the McLean House are mere replicas with no real history of their own.

https://i0.wp.com/farm6.staticflickr.com/5035/7061262379_d41dc74257_z.jpg

Appomattox today is a shrine to something else entirely.Not to the dead, but to the living, the ones who survived that great conflict that ran like a livid scar across the American landscape.

Just as there was a time of war, there came a time of peace. Just as there was a time of bitter divide and conflict,there came a time of healing, a time when men who had fought each other with an uncommon ferocity for four years remembered again that they were all still members of one American family with more in common than they realized.

That should give us hope in our own times, when morally bankrupt charlatans and their willing stooges seek to manipulate us, divide us and turn us against ourselves for their own power, enrichment and aggrandizement. 

Take a moment today, if you will, to remember what occurred that long ago, almost forgotten April day, what happened there. It’s something worth thinking about.

Appomattox: The Fire Is Quenched ~ J O S H U A P U N D I T.

I am going to add a bit more to this already too long article but realize that Grant (and later Sherman) as well as Chamberlain took their cue from President Lincoln, who shortly before had told Grant and Sherman to “let ’em up easy’. In fact very soon as word spread and a celebration was taking place in the evening in Washington, he came out and requested a tune from the band, saying that it now belonged to the nation, as it still does. It was this one

And so the Confederacy dissolved into the Lost Cause to be forever revered by Americans, not because of any of its beliefs but because brave Americans, so many of them, revered their freedom enough, on both sides, to sell their lives at a very high price. And in the remembrance of glory we move forward to the point that by 1898 this could happen in “… the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Johnny Reb and Billy Yank; the twin images of America

 

Appomattox: And Sumter

Yesterday, in 1861 Confederate batteries opened on Fort Sumter, leading to a poignant scene showing the honor of the American Army.

And so, the president called for volunteers, and all the officers made their choices and soon their was a war on. The war would be the end of the old United States and would show the outlines of what we would become. As we made that course change many a legend was created, for change on this order doesn’t happen cheaply or easily. If you know anything about American history the names echo in your heart: Longstreet, Pickett, Stuart, and always Stonewall, and Chamberlain, Meade, Sheridan, and Custer, and so many more.

And the places they had been: Bull Run, the Peninsula, Antietam, Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Cold Harbor, Petersburg and now Appomattox Court House. Almost all have been preserved and on all of them if you listen carefully, you can still here the cries of the wounded, the orders of the officers, and always the guns and the rattle of musketry, for in these places, at the cost of 600,000 dead Americans, the future was forged.

It’s fascinated everybody ever since because of something unique in history. The two main armies, The Federal Army of the Potomac, and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, fought each other up and down the eastern theater, fighting battles as hard fought as anything in history for four years and neither one could defeat the other.

There have been and still are two strains in American war-fighting, they first became evident in the Mexican War, and they are still part of our heritage.

The first is superb leadership, especially in small units but extending up to army leadership. This was the forte of the Army of Northern Virginia, especially the combination of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. One of Lee’s staff officers said that Lee’s middle name was actually Audacity, never has there been an officer who was better at taking a reasoned chance and having it work out, especially with Jackson as his strong right arm. In any other conflict they would have defeated nearly any enemy easily but they had the misfortune to be fighting the very first of the moderns.

Because once he came east as the Lieutenant General, America has only rarely had a better general than US Grant. He was never loved like Lee and he wasn’t as daring, although he could be witness his campaign leading up to Vicksburg. But when he came east, he realized that while he could lose the war with the Army of the Potomac, he could not win it, that would be up to Sherman. His task as Patton would have put it was to hold the Confederacy by the nose, so Sherman could kick it in the rear. But Grant, like Sherman, and Sheridan, was a modern general, really more of a manager than a leader. Grant wrote superbly clear and succinct orders, that were easily transmitted by telegraph. If you doubt this you need to read his autobiography which he finished as he was dying of throat cancer, and he wrote the last few chapters in longhand, and they are almost perfect copy. He also was a master of logistics, and concentration of force.

And these are the two thrusts of the United States military ever since. Overwhelming force applied at the point of decision and an incredible ability to move around and surprise enemies. With the leadership skills down to the squad level to make it work.

But, today we are met to commemorate another day in April for on 9 April 1865 the fabled Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to the Army of the Potomac. It was trying to break through Sheridan’s cavalry and had just discovered that there were two fresh infantry corps behind the cavalry. There was nowhere left to go, and so, on Palm Sunday would come this scene.

 https://i0.wp.com/farm4.staticflickr.com/3125/2807817622_1e3e70809b_z.jpg


[Much of what follows is from Joshuapundits’ haunting account of the day. I strongly recommend that you read it all]

Lee and Grant and their staffs didn’t meet in an actual courthouse. Instead, they met in a private home, that of Wilmer McLean, at 1:30 PM on a balmy spring afternoon.

For two and a half hours they sat and talked. After pitting every muscle and sinew, every ounce of intelligence, every iota of courage and will the two of them and their armies possessed against each other, the two adversaries finally met face to face.They had not seen each other since the Mexican War two decades earlier.

Here’s how General Horace Porter, one of Lee’s staff described what happened next:

“We entered, and found General Grant sitting at a marble-topped table in the center of the room, and Lee sitting beside a small oval table near the front window, in the corner opposite to the door by which we entered, and facing General Grant. We walked in softly and ranged ourselves quietly about the sides of the room, very much as people enter a sick-chamber when they expect to find the patient dangerously ill.

The contrast between the two commanders was striking, and could not fail to attract marked attention they sat ten feet apart facing each other. General Grant, then nearly forty-three years of age, was five feet eight inches in height, with shoulders slightly stooped. His hair and full beard were a nut-brown, without a trace of gray in them. He had on a single-breasted blouse, made of dark-blue flannel, unbuttoned in front, and showing a waistcoat underneath. He wore an ordinary pair of top-boots, with his trousers inside, and was without spurs. The boots and portions of his clothes were spattered with mud. He had no sword, and a pair of shoulder-straps was all there was about him to designate his rank. In fact, aside from these, his uniform was that of a private soldier.

Lee, on the other hand, was fully six feet in height, and quite erect for one of his age, for he was Grant’s senior by sixteen years. His hair and full beard were silver-gray, and quite thick, except that the hair had become a little thin in the front. He wore a new uniform of Confederate gray, buttoned up to the throat, and at his side he carried a long sword of exceedingly fine workmanship, the hilt studded with jewels. His top-boots were comparatively new, and seemed to have on them some ornamental stitching of red silk. Like his uniform, they were singularly clean, and but little travel-stained. On the boots were handsome spurs, with large rowels. A felt hat, which in color matched pretty closely that of his uniform, and a pair of long buckskin gauntlets lay beside him on the table.” 

The two men talked briefly of their experiences in Mexico, including the one time the two men had met as young officers near Vera Cruz. Then Lee, with an emotion that can only be imagined, asked Grant to write out his terms for surrender.

Grant took out his order book, and began to write: 

“In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them.”



At that point, according to the men who were there, General Grant gazed at General’s Lee and at his sword for almost a full minute. And then continued writing:

“This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.”

Grant said later that after looking at Lee and thinking about the matter for a moment, he realized that it would be an unnecessary humiliation to require officers to surrender their swords,and that requiring members of the Confederate Army to lose their privately owned horses and mules would be a great hardship, because those animals would be badly needed to carry out the spring plowing and planting and to help rebuild the devastated South.So in the end, all officers and men were allowed to take their privately owned horses and mules home with them.

Lee read over the terms, which were as generous as he could have possibly wanted. He had fully expected that senior officers like himself might be arrested and prosecuted for treason on the spot, with Grant demanding unconditional surrender. 

So Lee took up a pen and wrote out a short note agreeing to the terms, which was officially recorded at 4 PM that same afternoon.

Grant immediately issued orders to send food rations to Lee’s starving army, and then Lee took his leave. From the account of General Porter:

“At a little before 4 o’clock General Lee shook hands with General Grant, bowed to the other officers, and with Colonel Marshall left the room. One after another we followed, and passed out to the porch. Lee signaled to his orderly to bring up his horse, and while the animal was being bridled the general stood on the lowest step and gazed sadly in the direction of the valley beyond where his army lay – now an army of prisoners. He smote his hands together a number of times in an absent sort of way; seemed not to see the group of Union officers in the yard who rose respectfully at his approach, and appeared unconscious of everything about him. All appreciated the sadness that overwhelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of every one who beheld him at this supreme moment of trial. The approach of his horse seemed to recall him from his reverie, and he at once mounted. General Grant now stepped down from the porch, and, moving toward him, saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present; Lee raised his hat respectfully, and rode off to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded.”

As Lee rode away and the news of the surrender spread, the Union soldiers broke out in wild cheering. But as Grant recounted later, he ordered an immediate halt. “I at once sent word, however, to have it stopped,” he said. “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.”

[…]

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 10th April 1865.

General Order
No. 9

After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

— R. E. Lee, General, General Order No. 9

On April 12, the rain had stopped and the sun broke out, almost as if the heavens had allowed the southern officers and men an appropriate background to mourn over their dead and the Lost Cause, and then signaled that it was time to move on. Something like 28,000 Confederate soldiers passed by and stacked their arms on that day as the victorious Union Armies held a ceremony of surrender.

The Union officer chosen to lead the ceremony was not General Grant or any of the professional soldiers. Instead, it was Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain, the former Maine college professor who could justifiably be said to have won the Battle of Gettysburg, holding the left flank of Little Round Top at Gettysburg against all hope by leading the survivors of the 20th Maine in a successful bayonet charge down the south slope when they were almost out of ammunition to push the enemy troops out.

Chamberlain did an unusual thing for a victor in a hard won war, something that showed he was a man of rare courage and insight both on and off the battlefield. As the Confederate Army trooped by to stack arms, Chamberlain ordered his men to present arms in salute to their defeated enemies. As he recounted later in his book:

The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured? Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier’s salutation, from the “order arms” to the old “carry”—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!


The passing of the dead..an interesting and moving phrase.

General Chamberlain, like many others who stood on the grounds of Appomattox that bright spring day day was undoubtedly thinking of the men left behind, and it is to his credit that he had the depth of empathy and understanding to see it from both sides. But that was then. At Appomattox today, you don’t find the ghosts you find in other civil war sites. No matter how bulldozed,cleaned up and changed the landscape is, the spirits of the dead remain in easy reach at those other places. But not at Appomattox.

Even the furnishings at the McLean House are mere replicas with no real history of their own.

https://i0.wp.com/farm6.staticflickr.com/5035/7061262379_d41dc74257_z.jpg

Appomattox today is a shrine to something else entirely.Not to the dead, but to the living, the ones who survived that great conflict that ran like a livid scar across the American landscape.

Just as there was a time of war, there came a time of peace. Just as there was a time of bitter divide and conflict,there came a time of healing, a time when men who had fought each other with an uncommon ferocity for four years remembered again that they were all still members of one American family with more in common than they realized.

That should give us hope in our own times, when morally bankrupt charlatans and their willing stooges seek to manipulate us, divide us and turn us against ourselves for their own power, enrichment and aggrandizement. 

Take a moment today, if you will, to remember what occurred that long ago, almost forgotten April day, what happened there. It’s something worth thinking about.

Appomattox: The Fire Is Quenched ~ J O S H U A P U N D I T.

I am going to add a bit more to this already too long article but realize that Grant (and later Sherman) as well as Chamberlain took their cue from President Lincoln, who shortly before had told Grant and Sherman to “let ’em up easy’. In fact very soon as word spread and a celebration was taking place in the evening in Washington, he came out and requested a tune from the band, it was this one

And so the Confederacy dissolved into the Lost Cause to be forever revered by Americans, not because of any of its beliefs but because brave Americans, so many of them, revered their freedom enough, on both sides to sell their lives at a very high price. And in the remembrance of glory we move forward to the point that by 1898 this could happen

Johnny Reb and Billy Yank; the twin images of America

 

Duty And Honor; Part 3

English: Poster with reprint of General Robert...

English: Poster with reprint of General Robert E. Lee’s Farewell Address to the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 10, 1865. The Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

We left General Lee yesterday as he watched General Pickett’s Charge reel back from the Union line. The first two parts of this story are here and here. This was the bloodiest battle in American history with about 50,000 casualties.

 

A word is in order about weapons and tactics here because it is crucial to understand what is happening here.

 

The small arms carried by both sides were very similar and the Federals were more consistent so I’ll describe them. The standard weapon was the Model 1861 Springfield rifled musket, it had a percussion lock and fired a 58 caliber lead projectile, which was referred to as a Minié ball. it was an elongated (bullet shaped) and hollow which was to make it expand into the rifling of the musket. The effective fire range for this weapon was approximately 500 yards. (what the military sometimes refers to as “the beaten zone”. This weapon made catastrophic wounds, it tended to shatter the long bones in arms and legs which meant being wounded carried a high risk of losing an arm or leg.

 

This was the first general issue rifled weapon used in combat, during the Mexican War US troops had used the Model 1842 Springfield which was a .69 caliber smoothbore percussion musket, which had an effective range of about 100 yards at best. This is why in the Civil War, the traditional close order infantry assault, like Pickett’s Charge so rarely worked, they were usually shot to pieces long before bayonet range. British experience in the Napoleonic Wars, using the somewhat slower flintlock Brown Bess indicated that the defenders could only get off one volley before the assault closed to bayonet range but this was no longer even close to true.

 

But the tactics manuals and the high commands’ experience took time to catch up with this, all through the war both armies suffered from needless casualties from close order assaults across open ground. Lee was an offensive minded officer and was not immune to this. In fact some of his corp commanders at Gettysburg wanted to fight on the tactical defense and let the Federals do the assaulting. While not as glorious, this could have been a battle winner, remember Lee was North of the Union troops and threatening both Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

 

Anyway, as Lee was leading his shattered army away from Gettysburg followed by G.G. Meade with the nearly as badly beaten up Army of the Potomac back to Virginia word came in that on 4 July General Pemberton had surrendered Vicksburg to General Grant, thus prompting the telegram to Lincoln “The Father of Waters rolls unvexed to the sea”. Now the trans-Mississippi part of the Confederacy was cut off forever.

 

Soon General Grant would be promoted Lieutenant General and as such would command the entire US Army, he would co-locate with the Army of the Potomac because he believed that Lee had the eastern army overawed. General Sherman would replace Grant in the West and Sheridan would command in the Shenandoah. It was time for the moderns to take over and the rest of the war would foreshadow quite clearly what the wars of the twentieth century would look like.

 

The battles are interesting but not really for the strategic value. The main takeaway is that when Grant advanced in the spring of 1864 he met Lee in the Wilderness on the same ground as Chancellorsville was fought over. A hard battle was fought amongst the unburied skeleton, and fires licked through the underbrush burning some of the wounded to death. But after the battle the Federals marched to the fork of the road that went back to their camp or on to the southeast. Always before they had gone back to camp, no longer. Never again would the Army of the Potomac or the Army of Northern Virginia have a day without battle casualties. Horrid names lay ahead: Cold Harbor, the Mule shoe, and may others, and finally there would be the Siege of Petersburg, and still Grant kept sidestepping to the left flank until he cut the last railroad to Richmond from the south.

 

In the meantime the President had been reelected, a large share of his vote came from those serving in the army, even though he was running against McClellan.  Sherman had taken Atlanta, which formed the basis for that major book and movie, “Gone with the Wind”. and then gone marching through Georgia tearing a 60 mile wide swath out of the breadbasket of the Confederacy and then up through the Carolinas.

 

Lincoln came down to the camp to confer with Grant and Sherman and gave them the advice to “let ’em up easy”. which both generals would do. While Lincoln was there Alexander Stephans, the Confederate Vice-President came out to parley for the end of the war. Since it still called for the survival of the Confederacy nothing came of it. It did give the troops on both sides a break from the siege though. Apparently a group of ladies followed the Vice President out and were sightseeing on the walls during the truce. A rebel soldier jumped out of the trenches and led the Confederates in three cheers for the Yankee Army, after which a Yankee picket jumped up and led the Union army in three cheers for the Rebels, after which both armies joined in three cheers for the ladies of Richmond.

 

And that was a characteristic of the war as well, the armies fought their hearts out, doing everything possible to win, but between battles they were nearly friends, often trading Yankee coffee for Rebel tobacco, and in general doing little to hurt each other when it wouldn’t help the war effort. They understood each other, and knew perfectly well that when the war ended they would have to get along together, and acted accordingly.

 

But that railroad was cut, and Lee sent word to President Davis that he would have to abandon Richmond. That April of 1865, and the Rebels marched out and the Federals marched in, and helped put out the fires that had spread from the army warehouses that had been torched. And soon here came Abraham Lincoln, nearly alone just looking around.

 

And so the storied Army of Northern Virginia attempted to escape the noose and march to unite with the rest of the army, but they ran headlong into Sheridan’s troops and everybody knew it was over. One of Lee’s staff officers suggested that they disband and go bushwacking as they termed guerrilla war but Lee vetoed the idea saying was too old and he would have to go see General Grant. And so it was arranged. These two men who had known each other slightly in Mexico, met in Wilmer McLean’s front parlor.

 

The McLean’s had moved here to Appomattox Court House in 1861 to get away from the war, their former home was on the battlefield at Bull Run clean back in 1861.

 

And so the Generals met, Lee in his best uniform, and Grant in a private’s fatigue blouse with the stars of the Lieutenant General on his shoulder straps. Grant made small talk about the campaign in Mexico (he was bad at it) in an attempt to put Lee at his ease until Lee brought them back to business. Asking the general known as Unconditional Surrender Grant what terms he would offer.

 

He was surprised at their generosity but mentioned that in his army the horses and mules were not government property, and Grant said they should keep them then, they would be needed for the spring plowing.

 

And so the proud battle flags were cased as that army, the fabled Army of Northern Virginia surrendered, and soon the bolder spirits of the Army of the Potomac filtered down to visit and then the armies mingled and chatted about the places they’d been and what they’d done, and soon the commissary wagons came in from the Union depots and fed everybody, the Confederates had been living on acorns and marching barefoot for a while. And so it ended.

 

And there were only a few hangings, people who had it coming, like the commandant of the Andersonville prisoner of war camp, not that the Union ones were much better, really. And the Army of Northern Virginia disappeared into legend, never forgotten North or South, one of the greatest and without doubt the most romantic of American armies.

 

What they did was remarkable, two of the greatest armies in the history of the world, maneuvering and fighting for 4 years, neither able to finally defeat each other. Why?

 

There are two predominant strains in American warmaking, both came from Winfield Scott and were perfected in the Civil War.

 

The first is overwhelming firepower, especially in artillery, the artillery came into its own in the Civil war as rifled guns, aerial spotting and Fitz-Hugh Porters Rebel corps artillery, but other things as well, the machine gun made its début, in the form of the Gatling Gun, as we mentioned breechloading magazine fed rifles had their combat début as well. They were mostly Henries, the father of the Winchester of western fame. This was the Army of the Potomac’s specialty.

 

The second strain was brilliant and daring leadership, this was epitomized by General Lee but there many others both North and South. Their legacy is the Pattons, the MacArthurs, the Swartzkopfs, and all the others. This war is when America’s Army entered the modern world, years before even the Prussians, who used some of the lessons against the French, especially in railroad mobility. And the Germans, who studied British Captain Sir Basil Liddel-Hart’s study of Jackson and Sherman while planning how their Blitzkrieg would work.

 

Lee was a reluctant warrior (from Wikipedia)

 

Lee privately ridiculed the Confederacy in letters in early 1861, denouncing secession as “revolution” and a betrayal of the efforts of the founders. Writing to his son William Fitzhugh, Lee stated, “I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union.” While he was not opposed in principle to secession, Lee wanted all peaceful ways of resolving the differences between North and South—such as the Crittenden Compromise—to be tried first, and was one of the few to foresee a long and difficult war.

 

After the war he was not arrested or punished although he did lose his right to vote, to attempt any more would have violated Grant’s word, and that was not going to happen.

 

After the armies had surrendered there was a great celebration in the streets of Washington. President Lincoln came out on the balcony, and the crowd asked him to speak. Instead he asked the band to play this song.

 

 

Saying that now it belonged to the nation.

 

Lincoln was of course, assassinated, with him the South lost the last man who could have made it an easy peace. But Johnson couldn’t control the Radicals (he did try) and the South went through the horrors and corruption of Reconstruction.

 

Lee became the President of Washington College, now Washington and Lee College, where he was much-loved and idolized. He also lost the home he loved, across from Washington in Virginia, a vengeful government used its lawn as a cemetery, first for black soldiers in his wife’s pride, her rose garden. The house is still there, it is Arlington House and overlooks Arlington National Cemetery. I like to think that General Lee would approve of his home being the resting place of the nations bravest soldiers.

 

He died of a stroke in 1870, and was mourned both North and South.

 

Above all his legacy to us is one of Duty and Honor, many of you know my favorite quote of the General

 

Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things.

 

You can never do more. You should never wish to do less.

 

 

Of Spiking Footballs and Bullets

This is the last time (for this incident anyway) that I’m going to write about spiking of footballs and such. I thought perhaps a little historical context would be appropriate.

On 11 July 1864 Jubal Early and his Confederates approached Fort Stevens (in the Washington defenses). At the time the fort was held by home guards, clerks and convalescent troops. Fort Stevens is on the Northwest side of Washington. See map.

During the night troops of the 11th Corps of the Army of the Potomac landed and marched through the streets of Washington to reinforce the line. The were met by no less a personage than Abraham Lincoln.

The next day Lincoln was at Fort Stevens standing on the Parapet watching the Confederates when an officer standing next him was wounded. Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. allegedly shouted at the President: “Get down, you damn fool!” Before the President left the fort, he said good-bye to the future Supreme Court justice, adding, “I’m glad to see you known how to talk to a civilian.”

I will note that President Lincoln did not campaign on directing the defenses of Washington D.C. while under (literal) fire, in fact, as far as I know he never mentioned it, John Hay did remark that on the evening of 12 July he was in a very good humor.

Apparently things are different now.

Modern War, an American Invention

Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan rallying troops at the...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes we forget who we are and where we came from, or our teachers never bothered to teach us that part of history. For the space of this article I’m going to ask my southern readers to forgive me because I’m going to speak well of Union officers without equal time to the Confederates (I promise I’ll get to them too, they’re part of the same story).

What really happened in the Civil War is that America (both North and South) taught the world what modern war was going to be like. We really did. If you read Captain Sir Basil Liddel-Hart, or J.F.C Fuller, or von Moltke, or even Guderian, you’ll find lessons drawn directly from the American Civil War, and that doesn’t even include the mobility lessons that the Army of the Potomac taught the German General Staff, Porter Alexander’s Corps Artillery, the Union’s aerial reconnaissance. Nor does it include the open tactics (that the enlisted men on both sides) devised to give themselves a chance to live (with some help from their officers, R.E. Lee wasn’t called “The King of Spades” for nothing) or the armored, turreted warship, or many other things. Modern industrialized war is an American invention. And never forget that these things were paid for in blood, lots of blood. The hardest war Americans ever fought was against Americans.

The reason I’m bringing this up today is that we are sitting in the middle of a guerrilla campaign in Afghanistan, even as we were in Vietnam. It’s not the first or second time we’ve been there. As usual we learned all about it from other Americans. Of course, times have changed, in those days we fought wars to win them, not for whatever purpose we are still in Afghanistan.

Look at a map of Virginia and find the Shenandoah River Valley. If you don’t have one handy here’s Shenandoah Valley and Mountains.pdf. You will note that the Shenandoah Valley points almost directly towards Washington D.C. while there’s not much worth taking an army the other way. This was a problem all through the war for the Union, and finally in 1864. U.S. Grant decided it was time to solve it. Grant being Grant he didn’t have much use for nation building and when he decided to cure it he did.

He being the Lieutenant General knew that it didn’t call for his personal attention, so he delegated it to a young man. This was a man by the name of Major General Phillip Sheridan, then commanding the cavalry in the Army of the Potomac and Grant took some heat from Halleck and Stanton because he was young but, he insisted.

Grant gave these instructions to Sheridan:

Leave nothing to invite the enemy to return. Destroy whatever cannot be consumed. Let the valley be left so the crows flying over will have to carry their rations along with them.

Sheridan and his Army of the Shenandoah started off rather slowly, at least partially because of presidential politics, he fought a lot of battles against Jubal Early, hurting him badly. But Early was a good general too and managed a surprise attack at Cedar Creek routing two-thirds of Sheridan’s Army, leading to his famous ride on Rienzi as he rallied the troops.

After this battle the valley got pretty quiet as Sheridan carried out those orders. So much so that this time has come down to us in Confederate lore as “The Burning”. It very clearly presaged GEN Sherman’s “March to the Sea” and was very much a harbinger of the end of the war.

Now how does this relate to Afghanistan? Starving men and charred corpses make lousy guerrillas, if you are going to pacify an area you might as well get on with it. We taught the world how to do this but we seem to have forgotten.

What do you suppose would happen if those orders were given to CENTCOM to carry out in the AFPAK? Are the Afghanis and Pakistanis more important to keep alive than fellow Americans?

If you’d like to know more about the valley campaign here is a link to Wikipedia’s article, it’s pretty general but, an OK start.

 

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